Developing Environmental Stewards at T.E.R.I., Inc. through Education and Action

T.E.R.I., Inc. is an organization aiming to create positive change in the lives of individuals with special needs and their families through Training, Education, Resource, and Innovation (T.E.R.I.). They enact their mission to “change the way the world views and helps children and adults touched by special needs” with the help of approximately 500 year-round staff members whose goal is to enrich the lives of children and adults with special needs.

Although T.E.R.I., Inc. is based in Oceanside, CA, it has several sites throughout north San Diego County, including the Agriculture Farm in Vista, CA and the Equestrian Barn in San Marcos, CA. At each T.E.R.I., Inc. site, clients and students receive opportunities to grow through education and action. 

My Master Plan is aimed at educating and engaging families in conservation opportunities to develop environmental stewards. T.E.R.I., Inc. is a family through the group structure of adult clients, in the homes, and also as a community unit.

This summer, to impact families at each level, I engaged in an internship experience as part of my graduate degree through the Advanced Inquiry Program that was designed to develop environmental stewards through educational opportunities and calls for action. Specifically, I worked with two teams, the Equestrian and Agricultural departments, to design materials related to education and sustainability, respectively. 

Many students struggle academically because the traditional lecture style classroom doesn’t meet their needs. Special education students are often left behind academically due to the intense desire for them to excel in other areas of their lives and the additional focus needed to support their wellbeing in other areas of their lives.

However, all students, regardless of academic capabilities, are required to be educated on the same standards. In order to address the educational needs of students while also educating on required curriculum, I worked with T.E.R.I., Inc.’s Equestrian department to develop and implement five educational programs staff could use either while waiting for or during their therapeutic horseback riding lessons, which also met Next Generation Science Standards across all age levels.

Using these programs allows T.E.R.I., Inc. to meet the needs for special education students beyond those already obtained through their therapeutic horseback riding lessons. Further, through each program, students were engaged in pro-environmental content encouraging them to make choices to benefit the health of our earth.

Conserving our earth is imperative with global climate change and plastic pollution continuing to worsen. Often it can be difficult to know where to start or if there is support to enact pro-environmental behaviors.

During my internship with T.E.R.I., Inc., I worked with the Agriculture department to create and implement the “Green Group”, whose goal is to encourage environmental stewardship in employees and push T.E.R.I., Inc. at the administrative level to make choices for the company that are pro-environmental. The greatest accomplishment for the “Green Group” was the purchase and distribution of hundreds of durable, reusable water bottles to staff.

Prior to this, it was determined that so many staff chose to use single-use plastic water bottles because of the difficulty of going out and purchasing a reusable water bottle that was durable. By providing staff with water bottles that contained the company logo and were ensured to be durable, the “Green Group” removed the barrier that kept staff from making this pro-environmental choice. Since the implementation of those water bottles, a considerable amount of plastic has been removed from T.E.R.I., Inc.’s monthly waste production.

Overall, my internship was powerful in demonstrating the amount of effort individuals will put into make conscious environmental choices. It is easy to be bogged down by the disappointments in human behavior when they hinder the health of our planet, but this experience has shown me that there are many people who still wish to be stewards for our planet.

Ultimately, I am proud to have worked with T.E.R.I., Inc. because of the dedication to our earth and desire to be environmental stewards for our planet.